The Defense Department over the past week has released reminders of ethical behavior for DOD personnel, both civilian and uniformed, with special emphasis on political activity as the election year gets into full swing – and after an incident in Iowa involving a very eager Ron Paul supporter who happened to be in military uniform.
It seems DOD officials want to make sure the guidelines are well understood, particularly in light of the Iowa incident, which took place on Jan. 3, the night of the Iowa caucuses, and involved an Army reservist who publicly spoke at a Ron Paul rally and endorsed that candidate for the Republican presidential nomination.
CPL Jesse Thorsen was not in an active status at the time, but could face disciplinary action, according to a DOD release as well as a local news report that contains video of the incident.
It’s not that DOD brass forbids political activity – in fact, civic involvement is encouraged, the release noted. But there are rules as to how political engagement can take place, and they differ between military members, civilian personnel and Senior Executive Service members.
Service members are allowed to attend political gatherings and rallies as spectators but cannot do so wearing a uniform, they are not allowed to make public political speeches, officially serve on partisan groups or participate in partisan campaigns or events. No political engagement of any kind is allowed while they are in uniform.
Civilian DOD employees’ political activity is governed by the Hatch Act, which applies to all employees of the executive branch except for the president and vice president. Those falling in this category are allowed to be active in political groups and speak at political gatherings. They can serve as officers of partisan groups, but they cannot be involved in fundraising.
Members of the Senior Executive Service come under special rules that depend on certain activities and length of an SES career.
Beyond the political ethics refresher, the DOD Office of General Counsel Standards of Conduct Office released some general housekeeping on Jan. 6, covering issues such as the continuing pay freeze, financial disclosure and key related deadlines (Feb. 15 for confidential, May 15 for public) and a reminder to file those training plans. That release also includes some notes on gifts and more on charitable fundraising.
A lot to keep track of, no?
Posted on Jan 10, 2012 at 12:57 PM1 comments
The warnings were dire and came from the highest echelons of the government and Defense Department well before the Congressional super committee failed to identify $1.2 trillion in federal budget savings by 2021. The impact of sequestration on DOD is hanging over the Pentagon like a dark cloud, the “devastating doomsday scenario” predicted by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta now a reality.
Or is it?
Sequestration’s threat went something like this: If the super committee failed to act by Nov. 23, it would trigger automatic cuts equaling the aforementioned $1.2 trillion across the federal budget. The cuts would be split equally between defense spending and non-defense spending, effective Jan. 2, 2013. For DOD, this means about $600 billion in budget cuts over the next 10 years.
It’s a bit of an exercise in fuzzy math, but according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, that would mean:
The major cuts to the budget lower the government’s interest payments considerably, so in reality that $600 billion is more like $492 billion from 2013 to 2021, divided into about $55 billion per year. Combine that with $450 billion in cuts from the Budget Control Act – the debt ceiling deal from August that established the super committee to begin with – and another $39 billion in cuts ordered by the White House, and DOD is looking at a total reduction in spending of about $980 billion over the next 10 years, beginning with the 2013 budget.
“While this is certainly a lot of money, it represents approximately a 15 percent reduction below the baseline 10-year budget provided by the Congressional Budget Office,” David Berteau, president and director of the International Security Program at CSIS, and Ryan Crotty, a research associate with the CSIS Defense-Industrial Initiatives Group, wrote in a Dec. 2 analysis piece. “Despite the outcry from the Pentagon, the total level of these cuts is less than catastrophic. Even under sequestration, the DOD budget in 2013 would be approximately equal to the base budget in 2007 (adjusted for inflation) and well above the low points of defense spending in the late 1990s.”
The current cuts are also well below historical post-war spending decreases – such as those following the Korean and Vietnam wars – something Larry Korb at the Center for American Progress pointed out in September and was echoed in the CSIS report.
Then there’s the possibility that sequestration might not even happen. For one, by the time it would take effect, the U.S. could have new Congress members and even a new president, and the entire law could be avoided wholesale by simply repealing it. And since the legislation still has more than a year to until implementation, Congress, theoretically, has time to come up with a better idea.
Those are possibilities, but far from certainties.
“DOD will begin taking actions in advance of the deadline, perhaps as early as next June or July. Congress is unlikely to act to change sequestration by that time. In addition, President Obama has said, ‘I will veto any effort to get rid of those automatic spending cuts to domestic and defense spending,’” the CSIS report stated.
So what now?
Berteau and Crotty predict that Congress will revisit previous deficit plans, including those proposed by the Bowles-Simpson commission last year and the Senate’s Gang of Six. And the Pentagon is already undergoing efforts to streamline and trim its budget, having been ordered to do so more than a year ago by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
But for DOD, the biggest impact right now is the uncertainty, and so much hinges on what remains to be seen.
“For DOD, uncertainty means not being able to construct the Future Years Defense Program, which outlines the budget for the next five years and charts a course for the military’s future. Without a realistic FYDP, DOD cannot manage itself as effectively,” Berteau and Crotty wrote. “As the debate on sequestration moves forward, it will be in parallel with congressional action on DOD’s fiscal 2013 budget request, a proposal that will not include sequestration. We will learn more by watching this dual process as it plays out next year.”
Posted on Dec 02, 2011 at 7:58 AM1 comments
Improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, have been the bane of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan: lethal, difficult to detect and all too common.
As the defining weapon of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, IEDs killed 9,137 coalition troops, Afghan troops and civilians in Afghanistan in 2010, and 10,256 coalition troops, Iraqi troops and civilians in Iraq in 2010, according to the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization’s 2010 annual report.
They’re also spreading beyond southwest Asia, averaging 260 IED events per month outside of Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the report.
To deal with the daunting threat, JIEDDO is getting creative in the methods it’s employing to defeat IEDs, including the use of specialized intelligence focusing on IED source materials, and also robots being developed in conjunction with the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
As many as 80 percent of IEDs in Afghanistan are made from ammonium nitrate originating from Pakistani fertilizer plants, said Army Lt. Gen. Michael Barbero, JIEDDO program executive officer. At a Land Warfare Institute briefing Nov. 10 in Arlington, Va., Barbero pushed for better intelligence that hones in on how the materials are getting from the plants in Pakistan into the hands of terrorists.
That increased focus on intelligence is proving fruitful already, but there’s still much progress that must be made, he said.
“From these two legally operating factories in Pakistan, we know where they are producing, we know who their distributors are -- and we are getting great support from them,” he said. “What we don't understand is how this ammonium nitrate gets from the factories to these insurgents. That’s the greatest intelligence gap we have.”
With that information, the military can track financial data – and can enlist in the Treasury and State departments to help, Barbero said.
DOD also is looking at another avenue of attack: robotic tools that can help dismounted troops investigate more safely. JIEDDO recently coordinated with NIST on a three-week testing exercise in which the performance of the six robots JIEDDO tested, and that of more than 80 that were previously tested at the same site by the Homeland Security Department.
“The intended outcome is to establish a baseline for performance in standard robotics functions,” Matt Way, program integrator, who oversaw the event for JIEDDO, said in a media release. “Ultimately, these exercises will reduce performance risk in theater.”
Posted on Nov 15, 2011 at 3:15 PM6 comments
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in a Pentagon briefing Sept. 20, both reiterated previous warnings against the “devastating” cuts to defense spending that could result from the institution of a sequestration that would level billions in across-the-board budget cuts.
To avoid the sequestration, which would automatically kick in if a congressional supercommittee charged with identifying federal savings fails to agree on action, Panetta said he is focusing his efforts on protecting against potentially detrimental reductions in defense spending.
“There will be tough decisions and tough trade-offs. This will force us to take on greater risk,” Panetta said, adding that his goal is to ensure inevitable risks are acceptable by maintaining the all-volunteer force and securing core national interests. “We still face a devastating [sequestration] that will make us unable to protect against a range of threats.”
He also warned that the impact of sequestration-enacted cuts would hurt more than just defense and national security, stressing that drastic reductions and the cancellation of major weapons programs also would cripple the industrial base.
Panetta recently said that the sequestration cuts could add 1 percent to the national unemployment rate from job losses in government, military and private sector jobs within the defense industrial base. Citing a new Pentagon analysis, DOD spokesman George Little said the defense industrial base provides 3.8 million private sector jobs, per the Associated Press.
In what was likely his last press conference as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mullen echoed Panetta’s comments and pressed for aggressive action in identifying savings within DOD.
“These must be strategy-driven decisions ... that start with a clear-eyed assessment. We should end missions and capabilities that don’t comport with our strategy,” Mullen said.
Both officials stressed the need to see the budget pressure as a chance to trim the excess in DOD budgets.
“We should use this as an opportunity to shape the very best defense we can for this country ... so we can take on the threats we face over the next 10 years,” Panetta said. “We have an opportunity to set priority here.”
Posted on Sep 20, 2011 at 2:30 PM8 comments
In keeping with broader Defense Department data center consolidation plans, the Army just announced its own major steps forward in reducing its vast quantities of servers and data centers.
The Army IT Agency says it has eliminated more than 30 thousand square feet of data center flooring under Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative efforts. The agency says it also has reduced user-software license cost by 10 percent, increased processor performance by 40 percent through mainframe efficiencies and increased server virtualization capacity by 30 percent, according to its news release.
"As the information technology service provider for the Pentagon and the National Capital Region, we consistently strive to meet the technology demands of our customers and support the mission of America's war fighters," ITA Executive Director Donald Adcock said in the release.
That support includes the hosting of mission-essential data on more than 6,500 servers for customers including the White House, the Red Cross and the entire Army Department headquarters.
In August, DOD CIO Teri Takai announced plans to shut down 44 military data centers by the end of fiscal 2011. As that deadline approaches, her office has yet to respond to requests for more information on exactly which data centers those will include, but Takai said last month that at least eight centers have already closed.
“DOD remains committed to identifying candidates for data center closure and consolidation in support of the [defense secretary’s] efficiency efforts and the IT Reform plan goal of closing 800 federal data centers by 2015,” Takai wrote in a blog post on cio.gov. "We are making progress on several initiatives that will increase our efficiency and effectiveness in developing systems to support our nation’s warfighters, without sacrificing security."
Posted on Sep 16, 2011 at 9:21 AM0 comments
The Defense Department is gearing up to release an unclassified version of its first overarching strategy for cyberspace operations.
The official announcement of the Defense Strategy for Operating in Cyberspace will come the afternoon of July 14 from outgoing Deputy Secretary William Lynn, who will speak at the campus of the National Defense University in Washington. Lynn is expected to outline the strategy and answer press questions.
However, published reports indicate the public likely won’t be getting a meaty description of DOD operations in cyberspace. In the past, Lynn and other DOD officials have warned of the dangers of cyberattacks, but little has been said publicly about how the department defends against such attacks or how it runs offense against adversaries.
In the past, Lynn has spoken about the nascent cyber strategy. On the circuit at various conferences, he has acknowledged the lack of cohesive governance as a critical issue.
“Until recently, the military’s cyber effort was run by a loose confederation of joint task forces spread too far and too wide, both geographically and institutionally, to be fully effective,” he said in May 2010 at a U.S. Strategic Command Cyber Symposium in Omaha, Neb.
According to Stars and Stripes, at the RSA conference in San Francisco in February, Lynn said the DOD strategy will hinge on active defense systems, planning and coordination with the Homeland Security Department and a strong public-private partnership – comments that echo what Lynn has said at other speaking engagements.
Still, expect the bulk of the juicy details of DOD’s cyber arsenal to be absent from the unclassified release.
“The unclassified version, you will find, follows much of what was in the administration’s [international cyber strategy released in May],” Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan told reporters at the Pentagon July 11, per Stars and Stripes. “This isn’t about acts of war – this is about an overall cyber strategy, and how we defend ourselves against cyber threats.”
Even if it is a watered-down version that is released to the public, it sets the stage for discussions set to take place in coming days in Washington. The July 15 AFCEA Cybersecurity Summit will have several DOD officials on tap, discussing network security, the U.S. Cyber Command and related issues.
At 1105 Media’s upcoming FOSE conference July 19-21, several different aspects of cybersecurity will be discussed by an array of high-level government officials and industry insiders. 1105 Media is the parent company of Federal Computer Week and Defense Systems, which publish the Inside DOD blog.
Posted on Jul 13, 2011 at 3:09 PM3 comments